Community minibus charity a lifeline for Upper Beeding man

Spencer Gee (centre) in Upper Beeding using the Community Minibus Association (West Sussex)
Spencer Gee (centre) in Upper Beeding using the Community Minibus Association (West Sussex)

Despite a global career starting in Surrey and stretching as far afield as USA, China and elsewhere in Asia and Europe, Spencer Gee’s home base has always been in the UK and for the last 50 years that has been in Upper Beeding.

Since his retirement for medical reasons, Spencer’s travelling life has been with the Community Minibus Association (West Sussex), a charity providing door to door transport for people unable to drive or reasonably use public transport for shopping trips, social trips and trips to local town centres or places of interest.

He said: “Without this tremendous support from the charity I would have to rely on less frequent trips helped by my sons, who also have their own work and family commitments.

“The trips with the minibus help me to maintain my independence and to meet other people.”

Spencer has been a passenger member with the Community Minibus (West Sussex) for around 10 years. His wife June joined too following her retirement.

They have been married for more than 55 years and now live with their Jack Russell dog ‘Vinny’.

Talking with Spencer about his career in engineering, as a sheet metal worker, a draughtsman and a designer, is like talking through the history of great technology achievements.

He started work as an apprentice with Hawker Siddeley in Kingston-upon- Thames, becoming a sheet metal worker and machinist on components for the Hawker Hunter aircraft.

He continued in the aircraft industry through the company Link Miles, providing flight simulators for famous aircraft including Concorde.

This work took him to New York State, USA where he lived with his family for four years in the mid 1970s.

He particularly remembers his visit to the frozen Niagara Falls, and his young children eventually complaining there was too much snow.

He progressed into the car industry where he worked as a designer/draughtsman, supporting classic car productions such as DeLorean and the Lincoln.

His work took him to China in the 1980s, just after the country’s commencement of their ‘open door policy’.

Spencer talks fondly about his trips today with the Community Minibus.

Many of the passengers are of the more mature age group, some of them living on their own and relying on the charity’s transport to help them with their weekly shopping.

He said: “The volunteer drivers and passenger escorts that work for the charity are wonderful, they help you carry shopping to your front door, they are always so cheerful.”

Spencer also mentions the added value of social interaction. “Don’t be lonely, climb aboard the minibus. The crowd on the minibus are ‘all right’.”

The charity was presented with the Queens Award for Voluntary service in 2016.

Spencer added: “Without the support and energy of these volunteers, who give up their own time and devote it to the passengers, my life would be more restricted.”

He also appreciates the affordable fees for membership and the various trips.

The charity needs additional funds to service the vehicles, or to buy replacement vehicles when needed. Spencer supports the charity’s appeal to third party grant providers of for donations to help the charity continue.

The charity is always looking for new volunteers as well as new passengers, currently there are also vacancies in positions in the organisation at management and trustee level. For more, email info@westsussexminibus.org or visit www.westsussexminibus.org or email